Horse’s mature at a much more rapid rate than humans. A 6-month-old foal can be compared to a 6-year-old child. Due to horses physiologically changing at this rate, their needs are constantly changing. Healthy management of your horse’s needs depend on the way you care for their nutrition, vision, mobility, etc. as they age.
Signs That Your Horse Is Aging
Like most other animals, the signs of aging in horses can include graying of their hair, sinking hollows above their eyes, decreased mobility, and difficulty eating or complete loss of appetite. Each of these characteristics needs to be monitored and cared for. The best way to ensure you are staying up to date with these changes is to regularly have veterinary check-ups and to keep a personal log with pictures of your horse weekly. Keeping a log of your horse's development will ensure that you don’t forget their progress or lack of progress, not to mention it's helpful for your veterinarian to refer to.
Don’t Skip Your Horse’s Check-ups
As your horse ages, their ability to handle stress and infection is weakened. Because of this, it is imperative to schedule thorough veterinary check-ups. These check-ups should also include oral examinations. Senior horses will begin to experience wear in their gums and teeth begin to show through. Similar to wisdom teeth, these molars can cause pain and discomfort possibly causing your horse to refrain from eating altogether. It's common for your horse to live longer than the lifespan of their teeth, and because of this, they may begin to have their teeth fall out. You can help your horse by feeding them soft and mushy food that is highly digestible to make sure that their weight is maintained.
Senior horses are very prone to arthritis as their lean muscle mass and extra weight is very heavy and pressing on their joints, especially their knees. Senior horses also begin to be more resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls your body's blood sugar levels by signaling fat, muscle, and liver cells to store the blood sugar (glucose) as glycogen. This reduced sensitivity to insulin can cause their bodies to be less likely to metabolize glucose.
To help your horse overcome their insulin resistance you must exercise them regularly, keep an eye on their feeding routines, reduce their stress levels, and provide them with helpful supplements. Heiro is the #1 insulin resistance supplement for horses and comes with free vet consults with Dr. Reilly. Help avoid laminitis and sore feet with Heiro.
Horse’s that are insulin resistant tend to gain weight easily. Regular exercise can increase their metabolism and can improve their immune system to heighten their insulin receptors. Instead of conditioning, focus on exercises like jogging, ponying, liberty work, and light riding if possible.
Managing an insulin-resistant horse has a lot to do with their feeding routines. A change in diet is critical. All high sugar feeds should be completely eliminated, as well as reducing or eliminating grass grazing. You should also stay away from cheaper feeds as they tend to contain by-products and ingredients that can drive inflammation. Adding fiber and protein to their diet in addition to low sugar feeds decreases the risk of absorption of sugars. A slow feeder can be utilized during this process of changing your senior horse’s diet because it allows your horse to not run out of hay and they can nibble whenever they want to. Slow feeders help stabilize blood sugar, reduce stress levels, improve digestion, and promote weight loss.
Tending to your horse’s stress levels is important to reduce the possibilities of an insulin flare-up. When a horse is under stress their whole well being is at risk. Stress has been proven to interfere with healthy hormone production, including reproductive, adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary hormones. To reduce your horse’s stress levels provide them with a consistent routine that they can expect mostly every day, be present and give them company, invest in essential oils like lavender to place around the barn, and keep them occupied in their stalls with toys and access to food.
Proper diet and exercise are essential in maintaining your older horse's health. However, supplements are extremely helpful and should be used in hand with managing diet and exercise. Comfort Quik, our product for joint health and mobility, will reduce lameness, joint problems, and lessen stiffness in older horses. Comfort Quik is a blended mixture of 20 ingredients that are natural and pesticide-free. In fact, Comfort Quik is the only horse joint supplement with Epoxogen Complex. Epoxogen is a combination of herbal extracts, minerals, and vitamins that help increase blood flow from tissues to deliver oxygen. For more information about how Equine Medical and Surgical Associates can help your older horse with their insulin resistance and joint problems, visit our FAQs page on our website.